(originally published in my now-defunct blog, "Tonya Rice - Writer", 10/07/11)
The other day, my husband and I took a trek to the hill down the street from Bellevue Elementary (my school) - between the old WRVA building
(now ChildSavers) and Richmond Hill - at N. 22nd and E. Grace Streets. That spot's called John Tansey Overlook and I still can't find why, though I've checked, and I regress... For years, that spot has been my mental refuge. I've watched the landscape grow over the years from buildings in front of the large MCV building on the north and the more modern structures growing near the river to the south. However, the latest structure simply shocked me. It was so close to the hill I was floored. It was a feeling I didn't expect to hit me the way it did. I was frozen and simply couldn't move for several moments.
The church without the steeple was no longer visible! New Light Baptist Church. That image above is no longer there. I mean, it's just gone.
I still have difficulty trying to fathom the fact that a landmark view has been altered to such an extent. A view of over 160 years is now compromised. Simply covered up by this enormous piece of real estate.
Only about a year ago, I could see the church from the hill as usual, as I had for the past 30+ years. That day, as I got out of the car, I couldn't see it. It was blocked... by this new modern monstrocity. Construction workers were still walking along its roof, so I knew it wasn't my imagination.
My long-planned examiner.com article for New Light Baptist was finally formed. Thank God I had a photo taken last August 2010 of the church from the hill. I mean, you can no longer see traffic going along Broad Street there and only a fraction of the building can be seen.
Sure, change is inevitable. But, the obstruction of the view was the most bizarre thing to mentally feel my way through. It had more of an impact on me than I would have imagined. Of course I've seen buildings torn down around here and watched I-95 reassemble downtown, but in about a year's time to discover a drastic blockage of scenery was stunning. There is no comparison to other growth from along the hill. You can still see the original MCV building for goodness sake.
I remember hearing my grandparents talk about how the hurricane (Hazel) knocked down the spire. They all discussed it during Hurricane Agnes, so at 5, I had more reason to fear a hurricane!
As we pulled up, the view of seeing something so massive and seemingly out of place was just mind-boggling. I'll always remember that feeling. I reckon I'd taken that sight for granted for so long, I' d thought it would always be the same. I'm still, oddly, at a loss of words on this... so needless to say - I'm just so grateful that I'd taken a picture of the church from the hill last year as a physical keepsake.
My article was, to me, appropriately neutral. But as I wrote it and as Iwrite this, I'm still pissed about it. No integrity to the landscape. Sure it was available land, but to simply alter the hilltop view that Richmonders, Church Hill residents of that area, and even tourists have grown accustomed as a feature of the the area... it was abombinable decision. The church can no longer be seen from the overlook, yet. from other high points, perhaps so, but the view is not at all the same as what the overlook gave. It was the front of the church. It's old and its history is extremely rich to the city and the country. I'm glad I learned more about it for my report.
The worst for me is knowing that the next time I go down there, I won't be reflective and I know now that I won't be able to admire the view nor no longer be in awe of it as before... it's altered. Dramatically. I will simply still be stewing about that ugly-assed monstrocity blocking Broad Street and the church...
by Tonya Rice